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Living Standards

by Bill Kowaleski

Table of Contents

Living Standards: synopsis

In a future world marked by extremes of poverty and wealth, 13-year old Jiri has known only poverty. One day, a wealthy woman appears in Jiri’s enclave, the slum he calls home, and offers his mother an unimaginable amount of money for Jiri’s services. Little do Jiri and his mother know what the woman intends, but they accept. As Jiri grows and prospers in his new life, he becomes involved in a dangerous movement that will change his life and everyone else’s as well.

Chapter 3: The Producers

Jiri rarely visited the main house after his move to the South Wing, but he missed Lea, who was not one of the Gates’ stars and worked only as a domestic. The morning after Governor Bain’s third weekly visit to his bedroom, he walked across the beautiful, flower-filled garden, inhaling the thick scent of roses mixed with dewy air that promised yet another hot day.

He entered the main house as Lea was just finishing up her breakfast service, removing dishes while the film crew, the financial analysts, and the management people who ran the Gates’ business were, one by one, leaving the table to begin their day’s work. He waved to her, evoking a broad smile. She put up her index finger to indicate she was almost done. He waited in the hall until she emerged.

“So how’s the superstar doing?” she asked in a coy, teasing voice.

“It’s a job, I guess,” he replied. “I think I can get out in three years. Bain is helping me with investments, and he says I’d make a great businessman. But I hate doing it, Lea.”

Her expressive face fell. “Who would like it? You’re braver than some of the kids. Four have run away since I came here. They’ll never ask me to do it, I’m not hot enough. Mira’s on the edge. She makes some videos, but they don’t sell like the ones you superstars make. And, of course, nobody’s videos sell like yours.”

“I don’t get that. Mira’s hotter than any girl in the South Wing.”

“That’s not what the customers think. That’s why she’s still working in the house. She doesn’t pay her way with videos alone. You still like her, don’t you?”

“Yeah, but I have to have sex twice a day and then with Bain too. Sex is work for me. It’s so weird, I just want to play video games, maybe talk to somebody when I’m not working.”

“Bain,” she said, spitting the word contemptuously. “I’ve been here a year longer than you, and in that time he used Carlo, and then another boy who ran away about a week before you arrived. In fact, that’s why you’re here. They needed another pretty face, and I suppose he did too.”

Jiri winced at her words, but he couldn’t deny the truth of them.

“He’s giving me lots of credits for the most awesome video games. They are like... unbelievable!”

She laughed. “Credits for video games? That’s all you get in return for his abuse? You’ve got to be kidding me!”

“I make him teach me about investing, finance, how the world works, before I let him do anything. You know, he really loves talking about that stuff, loves to show off how much he knows, how clever he is.”

“Well, that is something but, if I were you, I’d try to squeeze some presents out of him. Girls know how to do that stuff better than boys. You could say, ‘Oh, Jack, I’m just not going to be in the mood tonight if you don’t give me a car.’ Or maybe some nice clothes, or maybe...”

“OK, I get it, but what do I really want? This house has everything I need.”

“That’s just the point, moron! This house! They could kick you out on a moment’s notice. Use Bain to shore up your security. Your goal should be to at least get a car and a place to live out of him.”

“Well, that sounds good. Let me think about that.”

There was a moment of silence between them, then Lea lowered her eyes and asked, “So did you come to the main house just to see me?”

He smiled, looked down, and said, “Yeah, I did. I like you, I want us to be good friends. You’re like the only person I feel any connection to here.”

“Jiri, you know how good-looking you are, everyone sees that, and I see it too. But when I’m with you, I can tell that there’s a lot more to you than good looks.” She peered at him shyly, hesitantly.

“OK, what else?”

“I, uh, I just really, really like you a lot. There, I said it. It’s so uncool to be like this, I hate myself, but I think about you all the time.” She put her hand over her mouth as though trying to stifle any further words.

He wrapped his arm around her waist and kissed her forehead. “Thanks Lea. I need a friend. I’m cut off from everyone I knew in the enclave except my parents. Come over and visit me whenever you have time. If I’m not working, and it’s not Sunday night, Bain night, I’d love to see you.”

“OK,” she said so softly it was almost a whisper. “But If I come every day, you’ll get sick of me.”

“Sick of you? I’m sick of Bain, sick of Carlo, but never you.”

They talked until it was time for Jiri to return to the South Wing. As he approached the video studio door, he saw John Chester inside, holding an editing console.

“Hey, Jiri,” he said with a quick wave. “Would you like to spend a few minutes editing some of your earlier stuff? I have a feeling you might like that.”

They sat in special armless chairs, bolted to the floor, facing a wall-sized screen, the editing console at their feet. Using nothing but hand motions, John showed Jiri how to seamlessly piece together the best parts of scenes, cut from one camera angle to another, soften skin blemishes, enhance body parts, add-in appropriate sounds. Jiri was impressed. The finished product looked so much more exciting than the mechanical sex scene John had started with.

“You want to work on a scene with Mira and Mika now?” John asked.

“Yeah, for sure, but isn’t there supposed to be a scene for me to do today?”

“We want to milk the scenes you’ve already done some more. Every time we add a new scene, sales of the older ones drop. We want to see whether we can keep your sales up on the older stuff.

“Porno doesn’t really have a shelf life, Jiri; you can milk it for years if you know how. So what if a scene is ten years old if it’s good? That’s what we’re doing now, giving your stuff a longer shelf life by making new videos rarer and maybe making some changes to the older stuff.”

“So I won’t have to work as much?” Jiri asked hopefully.

“Right, but if we can teach you to do some editing, maybe spice up the older stuff a bit, we can repackage the older scenes as new scenes. See where I’m going?”

Jiri looked at John with newfound respect. He’d much rather edit than perform. Editing was fun, like playing video games. And John was really good at it.

As they worked, he learned that they could paint different clothing onto his body, splice in a third performer, change the small-talk dialog at the beginning, even move the scene to a tropical island or a dingy back alley.

John welcomed his ideas for changing the scenes, telling Jiri how creative he was. It seemed like they were just getting into it when Jiri looked into the hallway and realized it was already evening.

“Time to go home,” John said, smiling. “You know, Jiri, as a very famous movie actor once said, ‘I think this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship’!”

Jiri felt a wave of fear that John saw in his eyes, evoking a laugh.

“I shouldn’t have said it that way, Jiri. Don’t worry, I’m into women: adult women. I have a wife and two children. This is just a job. I’ll never touch you. There are many kinds of relationships in life, and for you and me, I see the possibility of a very productive working partnership.”

Jiri exhaled, smiled, and felt a wave of pride. An adult wanted to have a working partnership with him, an adult he could respect, an adult who could teach him so much! It was a fantastic feeling.

Proceed to Chapter 4...

Copyright © 2016 by Bill Kowaleski

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